Review: In the Shadow of God

Written and directed by Brian Sepanzyk, as a woman packs up her childhood home following the passing of her father, she comes to learn that there may have been a more sinister threat behind his death, long buried on the grounds of the family home. Starring: Sara Canning, Andrew Roy Drury, Mark Kandborg, Adam Lolacher and Brittany Willacy.

When you’ve got a horror taking place in the woods, an isolated and grieving protagonist, a mysterious trap door, missing pieces of time and increasingly strange behaviour, what more could you possibly want? It’s a perfect combination. Added to which it’s beautifully paced, layering in more disturbing details as it goes along but never leaning on them too heavily. It plays upon both your imagination and the clues which it gives you, letting a strong and captivating atmosphere grow naturally and highly effectively. It also holds a wonderful balance of using familiar themes and tones while bringing something original into the mix. There’s a few unexpected additions and it definitely capitalises on the classic aspects of horror which pull you in deeper, particularly unexplained deaths and ominous symbolism.

Brian Sepanzyk’s directorial style holds the feel of new school horror while still holding onto some old school notes. It’s terrifically menacing, it’s subtle but clear and employs a superb amount of mystery because it gives you plenty but still leaves you hanging, as horror tradition dictates. There’s a great eye for detail, and especially bringing in the use of VHS, the format has become so ingrained in horror that it’s always a brilliant device to add an extra edge of creepy or sinister. In the Shadow of God also keeps things tightly focused, it doesn’t go off trying to add in stylistic shots for the sake of it, it stays centred on the story.

An interesting element to the film is that we never learn much at all about these characters and yet they give you everything that you need. Starting with Sara Canning’s Rachel, she provides the sympathetic and relatable centre, providing a perspective of entering this sinister situation alongside her. Where would horror be without its local cops? Adam Lolacher blends into the role effortlessly, bringing Rachel concern and warning that what’s afoot may be more complicated than they realise. A lot of what they’re both bringing to the table lies within the emotion rather than the dialogue, it’s bringing out the fear, confusion and anticipation to the story. They push the suspense and ominous nature to really pull you in deeper.

In the Shadow of God takes us into the woods to father’s house and all is enjoyably not as it should be. It uses some classic settings and themes of horror to bring a new and nicely disturbing story which feels like we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. It satisfyingly grows its sinister and ominous atmosphere, slowly pushing you down the rabbit hole, or trap door in this case. It gives you the perfect amount of clues without giving itself completely away and leaves the door open for more visitors.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

Screening as part of HollyShorts 2022 on August 16

Brian Sepanzyk’s directorial debut Compulsion is also currently available on Alter

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